My name is Gayle Lynds, and I'm co-founder and co-president of ITW, with David Morrell. I've been following with interest the queries that have arisen about the nominees for the first ITW Thriller awards. As an individual --- not representing ITW, its board, or its officers --- perhaps I can shed some light on the subject.
I was as surprised as anyone by the results of the ITW Thriller nominations. But then, ITW deliberately built a firewall around the award judges, so none of us knew the outcome in advance. At the same time, no panel of judges knew the results of any other panel's deliberations.
Let me tell you a little about the firewall: Any author or person speaking on behalf of an author who tried to influence any of ITW's judges would have had that author's books disqualified for two years. This was so that the judges could work in private and in secret. All board members as well as the chair of the Awards Committee --- James Rollins --- were ineligible to be considered for the awards. Again, this was to protect the judges and to avoid any accusations of favoritism toward ITW's leaders. This information is available in ITW's bylaws.
In short, ITW's board worked very hard to make certain the awards were as fair and as impartial as possible, and so did the judges, as you will see.
Since this was ITW's first year, the judges faced the monumental task of creating systems that would be the foundation for all future awards. Because of the boxes of books that arrived on their doorsteps to be read, several had to delay their own deadlines and make sacrifices within their families in order to fulfill their very serious responsibility to judge well. This sort of selflessness is to be lauded.
I personally am proud of every book and film script that was nominated. All are excellent works from the thriller field.
Now about the accusations I've read recently about sexism in the awards....
If you go to Thriller Writers.ORG you'll see a list of all submitted books. Only 29% were written by women. For the Thriller Best Novel, only 17%.
At the bottom of that page, you'll see a note to authors: "If your book is not on the list, please contact your publisher to remind them to submit your book as quickly as possible."
So what happened?
The chair and judging panels showed their concern that they be able to consider every thriller published in 2005 in several ways. The chair and several chief judges contacted all publishers --- both publicists and editors in each house --- to alert them that ITW was in the process of judging its first awards and to ask them to submit all thrillers.
I stress that not just one person was contacted in each house, but several, to ensure that the house understood that ITW really wanted each and every book in all of the subcategories of thrillers, from adventure to medical, romantic to espionage, legal to historical, and every other permutation. No one should be left out of the race.
Still, books were not always submitted. The judges worked closely with the chair, alerting him when they saw new books coming out. At the same time, he was on the watch, too. He went back time and again to publishers.
When it became apparent that few novels by female authors were being submitted, he redoubled his efforts, often contacting a house four times on behalf of novels that were clearly thrillers written by women.
At the same time notices were sent to ITW members reminding them to check the website to make certain their 2005 novels had been submitted.
In the end, the responsibility for having books submitted rests on the shoulders of the publishers. That's their job. At the same time, authors had the option of submitting copies of their books themselves.
As an author (not as a woman who has spent her life battling sexism), I could complain that no women were nominated. At the same time, I could also complain that no people of color were. I'm not sure whether any Muslims or religions other than Christian or Jewish were nominated, but I think they weren't either. There also might be a preponderance of nominees from one section of the United States, which could be taken as a prejudice favoring that area.
As long as awards are given in whatever field, there are always going to be those who say, "I wish it were otherwise. And because it isn't, it's prejudice."
The only time there's really an institutional problem, at least in my mind, is when there is a history of one group of people being disenfranchised.
Since this is ITW's first year, the organization can have no track record of institutional prejudice. ITW has worked diligently to avoid prejudice. The judges by their actions have indicated they have also been diligent in trying to create a level playing field.
My hat is off to ITW's judges, who worked very hard and read many fine books. All are excellent authors in their own rights, too. They did a sincere and worthy job, and they deserve not only our respect but our appreciation.
By the way, the awards chair for next year is a woman. She is not a person of color. Her religious background is unknown to me. I'm not even certain where she lives. She is a fine author and a wonderful human. Her name will be announced at ThrillerFest.
Anyone who would like to attend ThrillerFest --- it's going to be a blast --- should visit the website for more information. You can learn there at the Awards Banquet who the winners for the Thrillers are. ThrillerFest begins next week. As I said, all of the nominees are excellent. I congratulate them on creating superb works.